Review of A Decent Cup of Tea
This book is a delightful magical surprise. Go read it first. It’s Less than a hundred pages. Now that you have read it you know what I mean. You go into the book expecting a normal book about tea. Lists of types and discussion on “the best'' ways to drink tea. This book does list types and introduces you to tea on a relatively introductory level but it has less of a definitive quality to it. It will show you this introductory information on tea but without the hustle or bustle of the modern day workplace cup of tea. The book is printed by McCormick himself on handcrafted paper. It is natural in a certain aesthetically pleasing way and the paper reminds me of tea paper. The book is written in confrontaional direct yet non offensive or abrasive style. Although there is a warm feeling like the heat of tea.The end of the book is deceptive, it gives a list of recipes for food to have with tea. This appears more like an appendix then afterwards is a section on tea reading. This gives an almost hidden and therefore ancient effect to the mysticism of the tea reading.
The book is critical of bagged (as opposed to loose leaf) tea, an “an American invention”. It is critical of a sort of corporate coffee culture around tea. Where you drink your cardboard cup of triple caramel latte and then a mug of Lipton. There is Confucian nature to the book. It argues for tea the way tea should be. No insincere commercial bags for his tea, no “the best, excellent ingenious” tea. Malachi wants a decent cup of tea. The book argues for a tradition of tea where the secrets of tea are passed down. Similar to Confucian sincerity, a term used by philosophy Professor Hans-Georg Möller in his video Why care? The philosophy of care describes it as a role based ethics where completing and commiting to your societal role (mother, father, king, son, farmer or even cup of tea) is seen as the ideal of ethics. In the book Malachi argues that tea should meet certain decent standards, as in not ingenious, or ahead of its times, or out-of the box, just decent. Decency is about doing what tea does in his idea of it’s traditional form.
Decency is desired, not the indecent commercialism of bagged American tea, but for Malachi the decent cup of tea has a history. Malachi’s own family has a tea drinking history. His mother drank and read tea. For Malachi the final practice of decent tea is the arcane tea reading, which is tradition oriented. He says “the mechanics of tea-leaf reading are not difficult to learn, given the tutelage of a good practioner”, but there aren’t too many of them about.” This seems to imply that he bealives it is some sort of lineage of tea teaching in which each teacher teachs a student to be a teacher. This lineage which he implies may have something to due with the history of tea he outlines that abruptly ends upon tea’s contact with the British isles and America. This is also unfortunately influenced by a touch of anglocentrism.